NIGERIA. Niger State: International medical tourism which has been the bane of the health sector in Niger state has been reduced drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Commissioner of Health, Dr Muhammad Makunsidi has disclosed.
According to him, unlike other years where hundreds were assisted by government to get medical assistance, nobody traveled in 2020 and this year, only few have traveled.
The Commissioner who stated this during the annual general meeting of the Kutigi Old Students’ Association (KUOSA) in Minna, Niger state said that the huge money spent by the government has been saved as a result of non-international travels in 2020.
Cost of International Medical Tourism
Makunsidi stated that the impact of giving assistance for medical treatment abroad has overwhelmed the health system in the state.
“About 70 per cent of Niger state funds in the health sector is going to those who are seeking for healthcare services.
“The amount spent by the government on international medical tourism is enormous. In 2019, the state government spent over N300 million on International medical tourism but the money spent on medical tourism in 2020 was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented travels”, he said.
Makunsidi lamented that people had started to abuse the medical assistance given to them by the government as they seek assistance for little sicknesses that could be treated in Nigeria.
“There are times that people ask for assistance for a simple surgery that will cost N45,000 in Nigeria but going abroad would cost over N3 million”.
The Commissioner described the increasing rate of medical tourism abroad as worrisome stating that a peg needs to be put on it.
“In the Niger State Ministry of Health, we are trying to kill medical tourism abroad because if we do not kill it, it will kill the Ministry of Health.
“It is horrible and has put the health sector in an emergency state. While domestic medical tourism is also very costly, we are very concerned about international medical tourism because 90 per cent of people benefiting from International medical tourism are not using their resources but that of government and individuals”, he said.
Medical Tourism; Matters Arising
In his paper presentation on ‘Medical Tourism; Matters Arising’, the Managing Director of the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Bida, Dr Aminu Usman said that people embark on international medical tourism due to inadequate facilities and services in the hospitals as well as unfriendly policies and operations
Usman advocated that there should be a revival of the healthcare concept adding that individuals and groups can join hands with the government to ensure that international medical tourism ends in Nigeria.
He said that the impact of International medical tourism has resulted to loss of medical skills, expertise and brain drain in the medical sector.
Solution to International Medical Tourism
The Managing Director of the Federal Medical Center, Bida posited that the solution to international medical tourism is reversed medical tourism.
According to him, reversed medical tourism is when hospitals in the country are equipped to recieve medical services and operations that are usually taken outside the country.
Usman states that the government would need to train doctors on some of these skills and improve their salaries so that they would not be tempted to pick up jobs abroad that have more lucrative salaries.
The MD said that the Federal Medical Center, Bida have embarked on reversed medical tourism and have been able to solve about 70 to 90 medical problems that would have been taken abroad.